Tell us about the work you’re developing for the Artist Flea Market at this year’s Artbank Social Club.
Make or Break’s new work is called One Day Currency, and it involves floating four temporary ‘currencies’ that will remain in circulation throughout the day. Instead of coins or bank notes though, there will be four golden T-shirts that entitle the wearer to a series of free exchanges; for food, bespoke cocktails or special access to off-limits areas and experiences. Whether or not each person chooses to ‘hoard’ their currency or give it away or trade it is completely up to the wearer, and that provokes some interesting questions. What unexpected modes of exchange can emerge in the space of a single day? Are there different ways to do economy? These are questions that Make or Break are interested in exploring: how value is generated, how markets work, how labour is valued and exploited. These forces can feel particularly arbitrary in the art world.
How will visitors be able to engage with the work on the day?
We will be ‘floating’ the currency as the doors open at Artbank, choosing four individuals at random and explaining how they can use their currency. The rest is up to them and the people they make deals with! So if you see someone walking around in a gold T-shirt on the day, by all means go up to them and try to make an exchange.
What do you hope people take away from the experience?
An experience that might result in an examination of their own value systems, and their own power to change and influence these systems – perhaps even a sense of how fragile an economy really is. If folks are after something more tangible, we also have a book for sale for the low price of $20! The book talks about some of these ideas and documents an earlier project of ours called Make Or Break Studio, where we set up a live working studio in a gallery for three weeks, with tools but no materials. Everything we had to work with was donated by our audiences while we worked around the clock, placing the focus on how the value of an artwork is constructed and how artistic labour is valued.
How did you come to collaborate as artists?
In the wake of substantial cuts to public funding of the arts in 2015, many of our peers were talking about how we felt undervalued in the community and we wondered if we could find a way to involve audiences in the unpaid, invisible labour we undertake every day as artists. It really did feel like a ‘make or break’ moment for the arts in Australia. Together we decided to try sharing that messy ‘behind the scenes’ world that exists for artists.